Friday, May 25, 2012

Another aspect of advice


I don’t know if anyone saw this post by the lovely Beth Revis yesterday (hence the link), but I’ve been thinking about that book a lot. She calls it the book of your heart. I call it the book I think about every time I do a work out. Every. Time.

Right, and I’ve already written it.

And queried it.

And nobody took more than a 10 page bite (and man, those rejections came back faster than a tweet).

So I had this crazy idea. I hadn’t written it very well. I’d started it in all the wrong places. I’d done everything wrong that a person could, right down to the waking up from a dream sequence. Yeah, that was me with the waking up scene on page one. ::shakes head in presumed shame::

Well, I’ve decided that what it needed was about a million tons of voice, a POV shift (third to first) and a title change. I’m excited—like jump up and down excited—until I remember what querying was like the last time for this project. I was told that the premise was tired (someone said they had read a book that was pretty much exactly the same), and the writing was weak. Okay, I’ll grant the writing for sure. I can see that it was awkward and labored. And I can even see how the premise tied to that writing was definitely the death of that submission set. No questions. Every last agent who turned me down should have (and Thank you to those of you who asked for pages just in case it got any better; I <3 you). But I can’t let this book go. I just can’t. Not yet.

And this is where my dilemma breaks into the writing advice issue. In her post Beth talked about moving on. Letting go. Clearly her book was much closer to prime time because it went all the way to acquisitions at a major six (yikes!), whereas I had a handful of requests for pages. My concern is this, did I give my book a good enough shot and should I just move on, or should I rewrite it from scratch and see if I’ve gotten better enough? Should I do what Beth did and move on, letting the Book of my Heart wind up as the practice novel that never made it? No, I’m not asking the internet for advice, I’m about to give it.

See, Beth’s book went to an acquisitions panel. Lots of people had read it. My book… well, my mother, my grandmother, a few betas here and there (all of it fantastic). Agents? Well, I’m serious when I say I’m certain no one read past page ten (and it was a prologue, urg!). Right there, I can say that from a business stand point, my book hasn’t run its course. No one has seen it. And if I make the changes I plan to make, it’ll be utterly different. Whole new book = whole new query life.

What I think I’m trying to say is that each situation is different. Clearly, I’m still too attached to the book of my heart. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go back and rework it. Sometimes people give advice to writers that’s hard for me to understand.

Case and Point: Shannon Messenger. She wrote her novel and rewrote her novel forever. I mean forever forever. She wrote more drafts of her novel than I wrote of my dissertation (and that is really saying something). But if she’d gone with a lot of the conventional wisdom—write and move on—she might not have gotten published. (Yes, I know it's more complicated than that, but you can read it for yourself or check out her Friday the Thirteeners post here about giving up). 

Which means there’s a fine line between hanging onto our dreams and moving on to the next book. I’m not saying I disagree with Beth. I’m just saying that there’s a time and place for each of our steps. The question is recognizing where you are. My poor little novel had such terrible writing that it didn’t stand a chance.

I wouldn’t be in this position if I’d had a hundred fulls that got rejected by agents.

If tons of agents had read my book, it would be dead (or near dead). Trunked. Shelved. Sent to the great paper pulp known as my blender (strange art projects at the Rockford house).

I think that’s part of the move on advice. If your novel has already gone out into the business side of things, then it might be a goner. If three agents have read ten pages, clearly there’s some latitude for improvement. My advice: move on after you’ve really and fully walked down all the paths with a novel you are willing to walk down (and I know that for some of you that includes self publishing, and that’s perfectly okay too). That means rewriting, editing, revising, rewriting again. Many of the book-of-my-hearts out there are dropped. That’s when people give up. I think part of it is because those books are so emotionally tied to us that it’s very hard to be objective about them. It’s harder to rewrite them than anything else you’ve ever rewritten because they are your soul on paper. How can you control-C control-V on your heart? Control X?????

So yeah, move on. Don’t move on. Rewrite. Enjoy only for your friends and family relishing in the fact that you finished a novel, whatever. Do what’s best for you. Just remember that if your goal is publishing, that is a big part of your overall decision, and you have to look at the business side of things when trying to make the move one/stick with it decision.

Now, I’m going to go turn a query failure into PURE AWESOME.

Oh, and just to tease, I’ll even tell you the title and a touch of the hook (You know, the part where I sound like a used car sales man “Come on by and read my manuscripts, you won’t believe the stuff I write! Hurry, hurry, hurry!” But don’t actually hurry because I have to rewrite it from scratch).

PRINCESS SINGULARITY

1 princess + 1 prince = happily ever after
3 princesses + 1 prince = nightmare for the faerie godmother who has to sort it all out.

18 comments:

  1. I'm sooo glad you're going to give it another go because that pitch is KILLER!

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    1. Thank you. I doubt I'll ever put it out there for an agent because it doesn't actually tell much of the story at all, but it does have some impact. Maybe a twitter pitch ::considers how to parse it down to 140 characters::

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  2. I'm a big believer in rewriting, especially if you can see where you can make the MS stronger. Good luck!

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    1. My biggest problem with rewriting is that I always feel like I did a better job the first time around. So agonizing, but it's never true. The second time is always better.

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  3. Good luck with rewriting! I love your hook! By the way, I gave you an award, so come and pick it up at my blog: katethenovelist.blogspot.com!

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    1. Thank you, awards are so much fun.

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  4. I LOVE your pitch so yeah, there's hope yet.

    And you know, I do agree that there's times when you need to let go, but I am also a huge fan of cannibalizing your own work. I've written hundreds of false start novels, and several novels that were much closer to "there". I've cycled through ideas and themes a lot, but they are my obsessions. It's natural to return to an idea that didn't pan out then to see what you can make of it now. Mark Twain supposedly tried to write a book about Joan of Arc four different times in his life.

    So good for you!

    Also, if you feel like you need to punch up your hook/premise, TV tropes.com seems to help me. I make a list of all the ways the idea has been done before, and then a list of all the ways my idea is different. It helps when I am tackling a worn out concept (like, recently I tackled a Chosen One. Yeesh).

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    1. Ooh, the Chosen One is always hard. I've thought about taking one of those on, but you know how it is... How many One can we have? apparently a lot ("whoa" said in Keanu Reeves voice).


      (and sometimes I'm a little slow, so I just realized that Neo is an anagram for One... Seriously, I should have my scientist license revoked).

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  5. Good to see something came about from a joke after visiting Disneyland. ^_^ And yeah, knowing when to trunk something and when to give it another go is really hard, and it's even different for every book. But anything is better than stopping.

    Also: really want to read The Princess Singularity now. :P

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    1. Actually, you have read it. But it's getting a full rewrite, so everything old will be new again, or something like that.

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  6. this felt therapeutic!
    i have made my decision of how long i will revise before filing it. get more eyes on it, cp's, betas, etc
    i've gotten so much positive, i will give it more time and while i query, work on the next one!

    you go dfg =)

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    1. Thanks, Tara. I think it's really smart of you to give yourself a length of time. I always try to do that, but what ends up happening is that I just go until I can't do it any longer. Sometimes I put it aside and I can come back. Sometimes... yeah, not so much.

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  7. i can honestly say you have never pitched an idea to me that i thought was crap or boring. ever. and there's one in particular that, if you ever shelved it, would break my heart 'cause it's so great. you know the one. go write it.

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    1. I'm writing it, I promise. You threatened a sharp pointy stick, I'm not taking that lightly ;-)

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  8. It's a learning process. I finally let go of my first novel last year. I've been very productive ever since. I haven't let it go completely though. One day I'll get back to it and give it the 300th rewrite it needs. I know how to fix it, but I'm glad I moved on. I no longer feel stuck. But only the writer can answer that question, whether it's time to move on or not.

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    1. I felt exactly the same way when I decided to stop querying the first time around. At the time I didn't really think I'd ever get to rewrite it, but I've been building ever since I stopped, and I know more now. It's still not easy, but moving on so you can grow and then coming back? Totally worth it.

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  9. Thank you for this post. I gave up the book of my heart after writing, rewriting, querying (2 partial requests that ended in rejection), rewriting yet again... and have since written 7 other books. Is that book still on my mind? Sure. It definitely needs a major rewrite, but I do believe that I'll come back to it someday. I'm glad somebody else believes in returning to a book that might have appeared to be a lost cause.

    Best of luck with your book! You deserve great things!

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    1. You're welcome. These books are really hard because we loved them so much. After I wrote this book I wrote another four before I thought I might have figured it out. Even with that much writing under my belt, there's still a lot of struggling and chance taking. Still rewriting is pretty crazy, but that's what writing is: rewriting.

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